Most of the labels that I have applied to myself seem a little…off. I normally think of myself as a “Reformed Baptist” but I don’t think that works anymore.
Apparently I can’t call myself “Reformed”. Arbiters like R. Scott Clark and others have so narrowly defined that term that it applies to only a select few people alive today. An awful lot of people are running around using that label without the express written consent of the faculty of Westminster Seminary in California and run the risk of sanctions or worse.
“Baptist” is even more problematic. There are so many different iterations of that label that it has kind of lost any meaning at all. Many Baptists I have met have no idea why they are Baptists or what that term means other than “we don’t baptize infants” and we say “A-men” instead of “Ah-men” (in fairness the same can be said of many Lutherans and Presbyterians).
So I was thinking about a new one. Maybe “Particular Anabaptist”? It kind of captures some of the doctrinal stances I hold.
Like the “Particular Baptists” of 17th century England, I hold to the Calvinstic view of salvation (hence the name “Particular”, a reference to the doctrine of “particular” or “limited” atonement) but I don’t hold to many of the other extra-Biblical traditions that are considered the marks of being a “Calvinist”. The idea of “Particular Atonement” is not the majority report among Baptists or evangelicals in general but it is in my understanding the teaching of Scripture.
Similarly Anabaptist is more reflective of my views on the church and on the nature of the Christian life. Unlike the “pastor-centric” model of the church you find among most Baptists that is coupled with a highly ritualized “worship service” and a weird blend of cultural Christianity & American patriotic fervor, the Anabaptists as a general rule held to a view of the church that was more primitive, more in keeping with the example of the New Testament church including a clear differentiation between a regenerate church and the state. Unlike the state of constant aggrievement that typifies modern evangelicals, the Anabaptists expected persecution and were not disappointed.
Of course, I guess I could try labels that reflect my common relationship with other believers, like “follower of Christ” or even perhaps “servant” instead of labels that point out my differences with other Christians. You know, unity and all that.
Nah. Where is the fun in that?